Episode 74: Jacques Lacan’s Psychology

On Bruce Fink's The Lacanian Subject (1996) and Lacan's "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience" (1949).

What is the self? Is that the same as the experiencing subject? Lacan says no: while the self (the ego) is an imaginative creation, cemented by language, the subject is something else, something split (at least initially) between consciousness and the unconscious. Lacan mixes this Freudian picture with semiotics--an emphasis on systems of linguistic symbols--using this to both create his picture of the psyche and explain how psychological disorders arise.

The regular PEL foursome (with Wes acting much like a guest due to his formal study of psychoanalysis) try to make sense of this complex picture as presented by American psychoanalyst Fink and complain about Lacan's language as they wade into the nearly impenetrable writing of the Frenchman himself. Featuring the alienation of language! Eruptions into consciousness! Undifferentiated needs! "The Real" opposing "reality!" A baby preening in front of a mirror! Castration! And introducing the mysterious "object a!" Read more about the topic and get the texts.

End song: "Something Else" by Madison Lint, recorded mostly in late 2002 with vocals added just now; written by Jim Low and Mark Linsenmayer.

Please go to partiallyexaminedlife.com/donate to help support our efforts. A recurring gift will gain you all the benefits of PEL Citizenship. Thanks!


  1. Profile photo of Will Yate says

    Fantastic episode guys, I got a lot out of it. I can’t say it’s inspired me to read Lacan, but it’s definitely inspired me to read Bruce Fink.

    Starting at 1:01:48, Wes is explaining to a skeptical Mark and Seth that the unconscious, for Lacan, is all syntax and no semantics. But the way he explains this is by referring to latent memories as brain states, and saying that brain states are purely syntactical; it is only when they are reactivated by consciousness that the imagination re-saturates them with semantic content.

    This sounds reasonable enough to me, but I’ve never heard of latent memories or brain states as being “purely syntactical.” Is this a common way of thinking about these concepts? In what sense is a brain state syntactical?

  2. dmf says

    there is a tragic aspect to Lacan and co. (often resonates with aspects of Buddhisms and stoicisms) that is perhaps too foreign to many Americans’ puritan ethos (think of the rise of “positive” psychology), it will be interesting when you get around to Deleuze what you folks make of his work in relation to Lacan.

  3. The Wine Drinker says

    From a strict bacchanalian point of view, embracing the darkness of sexual forces, Lacan’s theory seems to, perhaps unconsciously, make impotent the force of unsubstantial imagery. Myth, which is in some form the presupposition of psychoanalysis, seems forced here on whoever has been become mature by death or other mundane trauma. As the individual is faced with death of a relative or some variant of that which rips through the experience of all human beings of the societal illusion and makes that person stand face to face with naked reality, how is this theory a cure? Should there be a cure? Theory, in whatever guise it takes, is alien to the person who has eliminated the framework of emotion and seeks higher values. Deluze seems to me an even worse evolution of the argument of Lacan’s. Perhaps he is the father of people like Erich von Däniken, accepting fiction as more real than reality, a Nietzschean view “perhaps”, which moves at least my bowls the wrong way. Psychoanalysis in this form seems, if you are in accordance with my experience, still very much under the illusion that we are actually able to be in control of things the Greek tragedians expressed as uncontrollable, (Freud might have read Sophocles not universally) and at the same time to be able to relieve individuals of the “unrealistic” possibility of redemption.
    Lacan seems like a nihilist me. What happens to Lacanian theory turned on itself?


    Good work again fellows.

  4. The Wine Drinker says

    If anyone needs an examplum or five of universal values, sad but true, they do seem to exist… Check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlJy0AoDwkw&list=PLCE2A1D1D2E51767B
    A classic slow jam, suggesting that noble excellence is not all that constitutes universal value but that sweet feeling is universal and it is a work that begs the ecumenical question of what beauty is. I think westerners, whether they be European or Americans would be surprised at how high the Chineese and the Japaneese value the universal claims of Shakespeare and Bach. We, if that makes sense, should pay serene homage to our medieval heritage, the arrangement and the invention. I think this might blow your speakers because this vocal power is not meant for speakers:

  5. Dickcheneysdildo says

    Awesome episode! you guys should do a Zizek too, or especially Edward Bernays would be relevant to Lacan and Freud’s stuff.

  6. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    Well done PEL-meisters. This episode is prototypic of what you do best–take the most obscure possible subject in philosophy (i.e. Lacan, etc.) and help make sense of it for the rest of us. If you just keep doing what you do, we will all continue to be enriched. Continued appreciation for your wit, wisdom, humor and honesty.

    Mark–my view of Lacan’s Subject:

    Lacan uses “subject” to differentiate subject from the self, “l” the person, the ego, etc. Subject he defines as related to the subject of a sentence which also has a predicate. A subject can be associated with any verb: whoever engages in thinking, feeling, acting (past, present or future); or (given a verb in the passive voice) anyone subject to being thought about, or serving as the object of another’s feeling, or being acted upon by others . Freud contributed to the concept of “subject,” as having subjective experience without necessarily entailing conscious volition or intention.

    The subject does not exist until the first transformation of joissance in infancy, and concludes with the subject’s “incorporation of language.” This coincides with the “incorporation [of the subject] into language” and an assumprion of desire. Lacan’s “subject” will eventually be indicted as the hitherto anonymous “Other” who thought, felt, and acted in ways that the social/historical individual repudiates for him/herself.

    The subject is not the same as the self, because the naieve concept at the moment of saying “I” is the deceptive fantasy of the “good self image,” which is our common construct we deploy to deflect attention from our true “subject,” the “subject of the unconscious” or the “subject of desire.” This subject will only be discovered through psychoanalysis, but only in the sense as synthesized through iterative acts of identification, interpretation and construction (by help of the analyst).

    Along the analytic path, there is a “subject who is supposed to know,” (the analyst) who the analysand believes knows what he wants, what will be successful in attaining it and what difficulties lie in the way and how the overcome obstacles and minimize suffering (the Other).

    This transference from the analysand onto the analyst is the anticipated prior knowledge necessary for success. As the “subject” becomes the one who , herself knows, and thus shifts from believing in the analyst (Other) to one’s own subjective experience as primary, one becomes subject to, not superior to all vulnerabilities to illusion of self, but subject to all vulnerabilities of illusion of self.

  7. Profile photo of Gary Chapin says

    Great episode that I wasn’t holding out much hope for because Lacan is so intractably obscure. I have to say that when Dylan brought up his objection to the sexualized language I actually said, “That’s right!” aloud in my car. Not moving in the field of psychology I very likely have missed something … but I don’t see how it’s at all rhetorically useful to use such charged words as “castration” without taking responsibility for the associations of those words To use “castration” to mean “coming to understand that you can’t always have what you want” is like calling some “a lousy piece of shit” to mean “I don’t like the way you dress.”

    • dmf says

      one doesn’t have to buy into the Freudian resonances of being rendered impotent to take in the wider point about how communication is, as Derrida said always already, mis-communication/polyvalent. Think of the analytic philosophical attempts to render logical our ordinary language/beliefs/etc and how they end up with a highly technical jargon that is almost like a programming code and suffers from many of the kinds of limits that Hubert Dreyfus and others have pointed out in AI. The fellows have done their usual good work with this podcast but what it doesn’t really unpack is all that is implicated in their references to semiotics (think Saussere or Wittgenstein on grammar/forms-of-life), a show on Peirce and maybe Umberto Eco might be in the making (could include a reading group on Foucault’s Pendulum) as well as the ordinary language folks. You might also be interested in the work by Lakoff and Johnson on metaphors and or the post-Wittgenstein enactivists:

      • Profile photo of Gary Chapin says

        It wasn’t the Freudian resonances that distracted, but the common resonances of words like “castration.” I agree that it’s my responsibility how I buy into these … and that my distraction probably comes from not being a part of the psychological field and never really having marshaled their technical use of that language. I’ve done a lot of work with Peirce and Lakoff and Johnson, I will read that essay.

        • dmf says

          I think that Lacan is a dead-end but there are serious challenges to the heirs of Peirce that follow Derrida’s work on grammatology (wiki différance), not sure what kind of library access you have but you might want to check out an essay by Richard Rorty called:
          “The Pragmatist’s Progress: Umberto Eco on Interpretation.”

  8. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    One area that the episode did not pay enough attention to is the distinction between the Real and Symbolic which is necessary to bring it home. This is related to the problem of conflating the sexual with the Symbolic, which is tempting for all of us, as we saw in the episode.

    For example, the attention of Mother/Father is the highest value to the child. That “signifier of desire” which is the desire of the parent over-rides the desire for their child, and this “signifier” is the phallus (generally). The phallus as penis has become the symbol of this desire (for imaginary anthropological causes rather than structural). The Object is never a signifier (which is the Real), while the phallus is always a signifier (the Symbolic/imaginary). Lacan believes in the symbolic.

    Just got my copy of Ecrits delivered. Price= $3.95 from Amazon.

    • says

      “The Object is never a signifier (which is the Real), while the phallus is always a signifier (the Symbolic/imaginary).” – Are you saying that ‘the object a’ is the equivalent in the Real of the phallus in the symbolic?

      • Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

        Object a, in my understanding, is the unsymbolizable (Real) remainder that stays with the subject when expelled from the mother-child unity (called the “name-of-the-father” or phallus/castration /general satisfaction failure).

        The purpose of the analyst (or ourselves) is to help the individual Symbolize this Real (give words to the experience) as it is manifest in their everyday responses. Existence comes only through the symbolic order (our lived lives), but true being is supplied only by the Real (our unconscious, unsymbolized lives, which nevertheless are our structure).

  9. says

    I find there’s something terribly seductive about Lacan (and psychoanaylsis, more broadly speaking) – something to do with how we’re irreparably broken, or how our lives are irreparably determined by things that happen/can happen at such an early age. There’s a kind of mourning in Lacan for that ‘oceanic’ stage, the point at which the child’s universe is utterly complete, before his or her’s entrance into the wound of the symbolic – that ‘lack’ we can never fulfil. I can see the poetry in that; but in some senses, the wound becomes like an analogue for the Christian sense of original sin, or an inherent flaw that none of us can escape (created sick and commanded to be well). Poetic, yes, but not anyway to live a life.

    Anyway, cheers for another excellent episode. Look forward to part 2.

  10. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    If I read you correctly, the belief you are referring to is the belief by the analysand (client) in the analyst (therapist) that by the skill and ability of the therapist, the client can be helped. This is considered by Lacan to be a projection of the same false belief that the child had in the mother, which turned out to be false hope, etc., according to Lacan.

    • faceglider says

      Thanks. That is getting to it. But when you wrote “…referring to the ‘belief’ BY the analysand and the analyst, I wonder where the ‘belief’ is. Is belief WITH the mother and child while in utero? O does belief happen after self-actualization? Or what else? When does ‘belief happen? I seemingly know that is loaded. I apologize.

      • Wayne Schroeder says

        A child is born into a world which has already anticipated his or her birth coming into the symbolic order and will learn the language of the family–the language that mother puts on the interpreted, preverbal expressed needs (the cry). The infant does not yet have language, but grows into the language of the mother (family) that forever separates the infant (alienates it) from the Real (the impossible to symbolize zone of jouissance, the originary pleasure of the baby, absent ego) lost to an ever mediated response priority of the signifier (mOther).

        • Profile photo of Tammy says

          Wayne – Are you familiar with Terrence W. Deacon’s “The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain”? Depending on if you are, may I ask what are your thoughts on Deacon’s work? Specifically do you think that language can ever meet its mark describing reality or the real? Do you agree that sign or symbol is closer to real than language?

          Another question I ask myself is why can’t a myth be utilized as a truth in a story, not a literal truth but a universal truth, unconditional to the human species universally rather than an excuse for human beings to be accountable for their actions.

          (I’m blending these questions reading two of your replies in this thread.)

    • faceglider says

      So even in utero, with a ‘synthesis between mother and child, there is a ‘false belief’? If there is a ‘false belief’, then doesn’t that necessitate a’true belief’? Otherwise it would be a suppressed correlative fallacy.

  11. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    The naive concept at the moment of saying “I” is the deceptive fantasy of the “good self image,” which is our common construct we deploy to deflect attention from our true “subject,” the “subject of the unconscious” or the “subject of desire.” This subject will only be discovered through psychoanalysis, but only in the sense as synthesized through iterative acts of identification, interpretation and construction (by help of the analyst).

    • faceglider says

      Interesting. I wonder about this ‘naive concept’ of ‘I’. It is before language, so it is’t said. Is this before the fantasy of the ‘good self image’? I ‘think’ so. If I ‘infer’ something, I am doing some assumpion. Assumption (or ‘prejudice’ as Dscartes called it), is a belie base. I can’t write more, because my computer is exploding. But Il’ll try to contnue…. This ‘naive cncept of I’ is what intrests me. What is that?

  12. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    Regarding the “Naive concept of I.” In child development, language occurs at one year with one-word sentences, at two years with two-word sentences, and at three years, three-word sentences.

    Lacan describes the Mirror Stage of development as the crucial time in an infant’s life (6-18 months) as visualized by the infant looking into a literal mirror (although it is the mother’s gaze) and actually seeing his vulnerable, Real fragmented ego, but then developing a reactive Ideal image of wholeness as a denial of the Real.

    The child is then continuously confronted with this false, Imaginary image (imago) of wholeness versus the real experience of brokenness and vulnerability.

    See: http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/groups/bruce-finks-the-lacanian-subject/

  13. says

    The guy who was talking about how ridiculous the punning nature of the unconscious seems to be should probably not be allowed back on the show. I would hope you guys could do better.

  14. says

    Great episode! (This is my first time commenting, but I have been listening for a while now).

    I found the exchange between Dylan and Wes on whether all desire is at root sexual or not particularly interesting. Wes gave the Freudian argument about the tactile pleasure felt in shitting sucking on the mother’s tits etc. This seems to depend on an a-teleological view of nature. On an Aristotelian view none of those examples would be of sexual pleasure, since they are ordered to different ends than sexual intercourse. An Aristotelian would say (and I find this plausible) that shitting is pleasurable because it is good for an organism to evacuate waste, sucking on the mothers tits is pleasurable because it is good for a baby to drink milk. So the similarity to sex is superficial: certain zones of the body are pleasurably stimulated during any of these activities to encourage the organism to do things which achieve some goal. But it only makes sense to call pleasures sexual that are ordered to the goal of reproduction.

  15. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says


    Welcome aboard, and appreciate your input. I think that it is usual to interpret the psychoanalytic concept of sexuality as physical rather than symbolic (as you imply with Aristotle’s view of: the “good”)–even for some PEL personnel. “So the similarity to sex is superficial.” Right on.

    ” . . . certain zones of the body are pleasurably stimulated during any of these activities to encourage the organism to do things which achieve some goal.”

    Perhaps the teleology of Aristotle (“the goal of reproduction”) subordinates the primacy of the intensity of sexuality to a goal state, rather than a co-equal.

    • says

      Well, I agree that Aristotle subordinates “the intensity of sexuality” to the goal of reproduction, but it seems to me that he is right to do so. He can explain the intensity sexual pleasure by the greatness of the goal to which it is ordered: “The most natural of the works belonging to living beings…is to produce another like itself, an animal an animal, a plant a plant, in order to participate in the eternal and divine as far as they can, because all things strive for that and do for the sake of it whatever they do according to nature.” ( De Anima 2,4)

  16. Kelvin says

    I floated this on fb but not a lot of feedback. Any help would be appreciated.

    I was wondering if any one could shed light into some of the clinical foundations of Lacan’s analysis that are covered in this episode. In particular, what types of evidence are there in the developmental psychology literature that supports things like the mirror stage, the other, etc. This is obviously a big field, but it would be great if some one could direct me towards a recourse that demonstrates how clinical results evidences Lacan’s metaphysics. I believe that making big claims in Phil of Mind (e.g. Chalmers) is perfectly fair as they are carving out new intellectual space to approach these issues scientifically (and philosophers still use the general metric of “how well does this theory map onto the world?”). However, psychology is a scientific field (despite Lacan not subscribing to this assumption) so it seems that the intellectual leaders of the field must still be required to provide a foundation for their analysis. Tangible results should dictate the truth and falsity of their scientific commitments. If it didn’t operate in this manner, then the science itself would struggle to make progress and (ultimately) not achieve the goals of psychoanalysis. Any help would be great. Thanks in advance.

    • Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says


      The discovery of mirror neurons (related to the MIrror Stage) was reported by
      Giacomo Rizzolatti : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron, a thouroughly scientific finding.

      From Winnicot to Mahler, the Mirror stage has been foundational to analytic
      observation and theory.

      However, it has not been until the establishment of Attachment theory by John Bowlby, and its elaboration by Mary Ainsworth and Mary Main that the full power of scientific theory was applied to mamalian attachment, which includes the mirror stage and its significance.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory

      My best assessment of how this pans out for Lacan is that his position works well for the attachment styles of Insecure Seeking 20% of the population) and Insecure Avoidance (20 %)
      but not for Secure Attachment (60% of the population, or more).

      But what is possibly even more interesting, is that perhaps even the Secure Attached fall prey to constructs established by Lacan. I think that experiment may not yet have been done.

      I think Lacan actually thought of psychology as a scientific field which science was not yet ready for. Your concept of “the goals of psychoanalysis” is interesting in that perhaps a wider concept of psychology might not be limited to the “goals of psychoanalysis.” Lacan was kicked out of the International Psychoanalytical Association due to his positions which challenged their position–not all bad, but belies a possible “false” rupture.

  17. Kelvin says

    Thanks Wayne. I thought your comment was informative and thoughtful.

    I myself am moderately versed in neuroscience at the cellular level, but things become a bit fuzzier at the systems biology level. I’ve always been skeptical of psychology as it seems like the real tangible information is lost.

    Theories seem to be created without requiring a real foundation, which would normally be fine. However, when psychology moves from simply learning about the mind to a clinical practice, then I want more meat on the bones. I understand my opinion is probably somewhat grounded in ignorance with a touch of bias. More reading and shows like this one are always great because they challenge many of my preconceived notions.

    Thanks again for the information.

  18. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    This connection between Stern and Guattari is priceless–thank you for the link.

    In explaining Daniel Stern’s idea, Guattari says, “[Stern] has notably explored the pre-verbal subjective formations of infants. He shows that these are not at all a matter of “stages” in the Freudian sense, but levels of subjectivation which maintain themselves in parallel throughout life. He thus rejects the overrated psychogenesis of Freudian complexes, which have been presented as structural “Universals” of subjectivity. Furthermore he emphasizes the inherently trans-subjective character of an infant’s early experiences, which do not dissociate the feeling of self from the feeling of the other.”

    This also does not bode well for Lacanian psychoanalysis as applied universally

    P.S. My neuroscience references all support mirror neurons–guess we will just disagree on this. Thanks again for that invaluable link.

    • dmf says

      well if your really interested you can check into the scientific lit reviews but that’s kind of a side issue I think, more to the point is that attachment theories are in the line of the brit object-relations school and was the kind of ego-psychology that Lacan was working against, and part of what is proving wrong with Lacanian analysis as we get more concrete info as to how developmental psychology actual occurs, not surprising that Deleuze and Guatarri were more in line with the enactivist accounts that are gaining momentum, Derrida’s student Malabou has been trying to bring the life-sciences into that side of the family tree but with mixed results at best to date.

      • Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

        Right on. I’ve actually worked through Malabou’s “What Should we do with our brain” and “The New Wounded” both based on the concept of neuroplasticity (best explained in “The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge) and represents a brilliant deconstruction of psychoanalysis in my opinion. Have her “Ontology of the Accident” (An essay on Destructive Plasticity) waiting on my bookshelf. What are your reservations on Malabou?

        • dmf says

          in a fashion which is typical of Derrida’s direct disciples (tho D&G also did this unfortunate move with schizophrenia) she doesn’t stick very close to the actual research/clinical at hand but sort of riffs off a conceptualization/abstraction of the materials. You might find more of what you are looking for in the developing work of Bernard Stiegler, there are some excellent talks up now on youtube in English and whole seminars in French, he weaves many of the themes that are being raised by the PELers into a pretty convincing meshwork.

  19. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    A quote from Wikipedia on Stiegler :” technics, as organised inorganic matter, and as essentially a form of memory, is constitutive of human temporality.” Yikes.

  20. Jeffrey Allan says

    Hey guys, I’m fairly new to your podcast and I’m simply loving it! Unfortunately you kind of butchered Lacan. I’m not sure if (in addition to his oblique style) that’s because his ideas are difficult to shrink down into a podcast or because he is primarily speaking/writing to psychoanalysts. Either way I think he makes some really fascinating points that I have not seen developed elsewhere in philosophy, granted philosophy is not my primary field. However, if anyone is interested in learning more about Lacan’s ideas I would definitely recommend Fink’s other books on Lacan as a great place to get started.

    • dmf says

      “because he is primarily speaking/writing to psychoanalysts” yeah not so much when he was doing most of his more famous public lectures/seminars which were given to a fairly broad audience.

    • Profile photo of Seth Paskin says

      Thanks Jeffrey. I’m going to take issue with the idea that we “butchered” him – I worked very hard to read the Fink and Lacan and make it make sense to me. If I didn’t get it, it wasn’t for lack of good will and effort.

      Butchering suggests some kind of willful ignorance which was not there in our case.

      • Steve Krasinsky says

        I agree with Jeffrey. Butchered is really putting it lightly. I know this podcast is a lot of work, but really, the Lacan episode and Heidegger too leave a lot to be desired. As for Lacan, if you’re looking for more secondary material (beyond Zizek who is great) I’d strongly recommend Anika Lemaire’s book. As for Lacan, did you guys even read the Fink book? He also has a great book called ‘a clinical introduction to lacanian psychoanalysis’ that is a more practical introduction.

        • Profile photo of Seth Paskin says

          I read the book very carefully and endeavored to represent what I understood him to be saying about Lacan in the podcast. Perhaps you can give a more detailed explanation of “butchered”.

          It’s disappointing but sadly expected on the internet to be criticized in the ‘hyperbolic denunciation – lack of substantive response’ format.

          • dmf says

            sad indeed, tho I couldn’t get people to stick to the texts even when there were grades to hang over their heads so not sure what could be done to insure some respect for the work (let alone the people) in the bound-less depths of the intertubes, best perhaps just not to feed trolls and hope they move on?

  21. Profile photo of Wayne Schroeder says

    Your comment: “Unfortunately you kind of butchered Lacan” is not very on point about your concerns. If you noticed the comments above, anyone with concerns actually stated those concerns without mere criticism.

    Perhaps you could parse your meaning of the word “butchered.”

    For a current elaboration of the concept of sublimation regarding Lacan see “The Singularity of Being: Lacan and the Immortal Within” by Mari Ruti.

  22. dsch says

    A lot of the difficulties encountered here re: the unconscious and the Symbolic can be resolved quite straightforwardly if you read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and the short essay on the magic writing pad.

  23. says

    I feel a need to emphasize my admiration for your efforts in sharing philosophy with the masses. Thank you for all that you do to make philosophy and morality more fun and entertaining.

    Aside from my work as a psychologist, I try to give back to my profession through educating psychologists on ethics and morality. I aggregate and distribute information on philosophy, psychology, ethics, and morality to psychologists via the web site Ethics and Psychology. I have a section of the audio resources page highlighting your podcasts with links to exceptional episodes; those likely to help psychologists understand the intersection of philosophy, morality and the practice of psychotherapy.

    I also respect your decision to read and discuss Lacan. While some of the other listener feedback is quite harsh, I agree that both episodes involving Lacan were not your strongest. I noticed a lot of speculation and referring to other podcasts in the first episode on Lacan. While there were times you all read from the text, it is difficult to incorporate certain passages with some of the overall concepts Lacan offers.

    In terms of what I agree with you, Lacan is very difficult to read and to understand. Additionally, to believe Lacan, the reader needs to believe in psychic determinism similar to Freud.

    Some additional statements on Lacan:

    1. Lacan is clearly not mainstream psychoanalytic theory.
    2. Lacan’s developmental concepts have little, if any, empirical research to support the theory. To be fair, Freud’s developmental concepts have little empirical support as well.
    3. There are few places in the world to find psychologists/analysts who practice a Lacanian version of psychoanalysis.

    My point is: Lacan is not very popular. While popularity is not the only gage of well-conceived ideas or theories, it is easy to see why Lacan is not popular, in terms of writing style, clarity of ideas, and how to use Lacan’s ideas in practice.

    I would guess that over 90% of mental health professionals in the US have no idea who Lacan is. And, the nine of the remaining 10% would not be able to coherently explain three ideas related to Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis.

    In the late 80s, I was in a study group with psychologists and philosophers who tried to make sense of Lacan. From this six-month study group, the main points extracted from his writings were:

    1. Lacan offered a different form of psychic determinism than Freud.
    2. Lacan was more interested in language than Freud.
    3. Lacan offered a different version of libido and sexual desire than did Freud.
    4. Lacan developed a different view of transference and the therapeutic relationship than Freud. In practice, Lacan’s view of the therapeutic relationship and “transference” is different in Freudian tradition. I heard you all struggling to understand the cyclical notion of the transference relationship in the second episode with Poe.
    5. Lacan offered a different version of the “self” and how the “self” is de-centered and would likely not ever become a centered self.

    So, why bother writing any of this?

    Since you all do a great job on other topics, I would not want you to repeat this error, something to do with repetition compulsion, I guess. ☺

    In the past, you have invited experts or quasi-experts to help understand a philosophical school or a work of fiction. If a topic as dense or difficult as Lacan arises again, then you may consider the use of a guest to help explain.

    Next, if you all want to tackle a more obscure theorist or writer, you may want to compare and contrast the lesser-known author with a more relevant or known author. I know Wes tried to fill in some data in the first episode; however, he admittedly knew little of Lacan. And, if I were a more psychodynamic psychologist, I would offer an interpretation of his absence on the second episode. You know, the power of the unconscious and such. ☺

    Thanks again for all of your hard work!!! I greatly appreciate your efforts.

  24. Noah Vale says

    Thanks for doing all the hard work to sort this difficult subject out for your listeners. I think I now have a vague notion of what Lacan is saying. But I still have two main issues that are bothering me: one is that it seems like a lot of work to produce a very small product. Perhaps I am missing the utility of his theories? Second, unlike most of the philosophers you have discussed I have no idea what the source of his ideas are. Is it clinical experience, lab research or is he just creating a new structure to explain the work of others? If it is clinical or scientific research then fine. It is verifiable or it is not. But, if , to be blunt, he is just making this shit up without even the appeal to reason etc like Descartes sitting in his study what use is it? Without some idea of the source of his ideas my natural bullshit alarm begins to sound and makes it difficult for me to take the ideas seriously. Perhaps it could be rescued by an answer to my first issue. For example, Chomsky ‘s linguistic theories seem to me to be “made up” but at least it is clear that it is to be applied in some way and has a verifiablity to it that gives it some legitimacy. But, as it is presented how am I to argue with lacan’s theories even if I can become comfortable that I understand them? Or is that the point?

  25. Noah Vale says

    Oops! Sorry, didn’t see the next pod cast. Ah, now I see it’s utility is in literary criticism. Hmmmm. Never been a fan of literary criticism.

  26. JanneM says

    I found your podcast-show and set about to test if you are worth to listen to as beginner’s level introduction to different topics, so I listened this particular piece about which I am familiar with. And behold, whenever one or more of you guys were making profoundly stupid interpretations and examples, and I’m about to give up, one guy or another steps up and gets it atleast somewhat to the right tracks. Nice.

    Although this (and if not, maybe it should) could come by from editing – ie. re-reading the issue and hence becoming able to formalize it better – I find it important that such ‘disastrous thoughts’ shall not be planted on the unsuspecting listener, as it may steer the understanding of the rest of the theory quite off-the-map.

    Anyhow, gotta check out some uncharted territory aswell and listen what you have to say on the rest of the topics. Hope you get a lot of pussy with your show!


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